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In the News: California to Require Chains to Post Calories

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that requires all restaurant chains with more than 20 units in the state to post nutritional information.

The law, which will affect more than 17,000 restaurants, begins next year. Starting in July 2009, restaurants much provide brochures with nutritional info, and by January 2011, all menus and menu boards above registers must include calories for each item. (Interestingly enough, the Govern-ator signed the bill in front of a Chili's restaurant!)

New York City implemented a similar law earlier this year, and it hasn't really affected the bottom line for restaurants (though with the current financial situation the real effect of the program remains to be seen).
Do you think that posting nutritional info makes a difference? According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health:
  • Americans spend 47.9% of their food budget on restaurant food.
  • People who dine at fast-food restaurants eat there about twice a week.
  • Consumers routinely make decisions based on the nutrition labels of supermarket foods.

    We know that New York now posts nutrition info on menu boards, and in France, the nutrition info is printed on fast food bags, boxes and wrappers. I've blogged about that topic in the past. After a night on the town in Paris, my sister wanted Mac-Do, as McDonald's is often called in France, so I indulged her. We were amused, upon sitting down, to find that her sandwich had 440 calories, according to the box it came in. I snapped a blurry photo between chuckles. Did the nutrition info dissuade her? Nope. She was craving some greasy American fast food.

    I never eat fast food, and she rarely does, and usually then it's to fulfill a craving. Most of my friends are the same way: They rarely eat fast food, but if they do, it's to satisfy a craving. Calories, schmalories, they want that Big Mac, Burrito Supreme or Whopper! Posting calories likely wouldn't squelch that craving.

    However, my extended family frequents chain restaurants, which I generally try to avoid. When I go out to eat with them, I generally have a hard time finding something healthy. I'd LOVE to know how many calories I'm eating at the chains.

    What do you think about nutritional content on restaurant menus? Would it deter you from eating somewhere or steer you toward better choices?


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New York has had this law for a while. I find the information helpful, but the calorie counts are not always accurate. Report
Useless information, I refuse to support these food chains.. I can make any menu 10 times healthier than they can at home.. Whom in their right mind buys a slither of pizza or half a burger.. I love sparkspeoples article what does 300-400 calories look like lol.. Report
I eat very differently now that I am tracking my calories. Having them conveniently posted would be great. I would also love to see restaurants especially chains posting the nutritional information in their menus. Report
What a wonderful idea. I've seen calorie postings at the Burger King and the Wendy's in my area. It has affected what I've ordered. Additionally, I keep a calorie count book in my purse, which has the calorie counts of a lot of the major fast food restaurants. I usually look in the book before I even stop at the fast food joint. Report
it has been implemented in Philadelphia. when i saw the new calorie postings in a Taco Bell near my school, i really cut down on what i ordered. i don't eat fast food often and very actively choose lean, veggie-loaded options, but the large calorie count really disuaded my ordering that second Gordita!

its the public really educated on the concept of total calories per day? perhaps an additional posting of fat percentage may be more relate-able, even if it is just to compare one food to the next. Report
This is such an excellent idea to me, and one I'll find very useful.
I wish it would go into effect nationwide, not just California. Report
Way to go, Arnold! Of course, some smart store managers are already posting this. I was traveling a while back, and we stopped at a Burger King (in California) for breakfast. Note: I rarely go to fast food restaurants, but boy...are they convenient when you're on a long drive to somewhere! There was a big poster with all the info. I simply chose the healthiest item on the menu, and ordered it. Without that information, I could have made some very bad choices!

Shine on, Golden State. Report
Awesome! What a GRAET idea! I know that Ruby Tuesday's already posts their nutitional values online in a printable PDF file... would they now be required to have this info available IN the resturant? how much more convienent! I also don't eat fast food (or at least VERY rarely) & dining out is not frequent either but it would be great to have this info there, it would certainly help to make healthy choices. Hope this goes nation wide! Report
I think it is absolutely time for this type of accountability, particularly in light of the fact that our nation is experiencing a pandemic of obesity...I am one, and there is so much messaging and marketing on items that it only seems right that we really know what we are getting for our $$$$ i.e. a heart-attach sandwich, cushion for the tushion etc...I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for years and it is common practice to label drugs.....for those of us with weight issues, food is often the same why not? Kudos to Arnold, he got it right!!! Report
Great idea! It would help it all restaurants would conform to this way of thinking. Report
The real reason behind these laws is to bring forth the UNHEALTHY facts of the "Healthy Choices." If you go on line and look over the food facts for some of the chains you'd be surprised which are the "better" choices. I guess that is why the news shows are all doing the "eat this or that" sagment. Yes, we all know that steamed veggies are better than fried spuds but most of us would have thought the salad a better choice than steak.

I'm not a big government person. Discloser leads to an inform public but it will never end stupidity. Do we really need a seat belt law?!?! We live in a state that doesn't have a seat belt law pertaining to adults but buckle up before starting the engine. Report
California is not the first state to do this --- but better late then never! Report
I like the idea. You can always find the info for most fast food places but chains like Chuy's or TGIFridays are more difficult. It's a real pain trying to log a meal from a sit down restaurant.... It would be nice if restauarants would just show the calorie count next to the meal. Of course I think many restaurants that have Chef's don't worry about the calorie count, the chef just create meals. The chains have recipes so that they all serve the same meal so they can easily come up with that info. Report
I usually carry a calorie & fat book with me. It lists almost everything. When I need to eat out I usually refer to it before I make a choice. I just wish it listed family style restaurants. Report
Because I log everything, I think it is great. However, in places where it is posted, I never see other people (than me) reading it before they order, or even after. It is convenient for those who do, and yes, the website postings are also helpful. Report
Yea to NY & CA for leading the way.

We also rarely eat out, but when I do it is reaaly hard to know what you are eating. If I know the restaurant we are going to in advance, I try to visit their web site for nutritional info. A lot of times they will have the info on-line even if it isn't available in the restaurant itself. That helps, but it sure isn't convienent.

I also agree with most of the other comments, in that a lot of people will simply ignore the information provided (Don't ask- Don't tell), but for the rest of us it will be an indespensible tool.

Good news! Though I rarely eat, and when I do it's rarely a chain, I applaud the message -- maybe the individually owned establishments will follow suit! Report
Now that I'm tracking EVERYTHING, I will no longer go where they done't give the information. I've been in communication with Sizzler about gettting a "healthy" menu and posting some info. As of now, they don't have it. They encouraged me to enjoy the sald bar... I replied that there isn't enough healthy choices on their bar to make it worth $8.99 to me... I make salads at home all the time for a WHOLE lot less. I responded and told them to let me know when they decide to make the information known and I might consider coming back.

I've gotten to the point that if we're going out, I pull up the menu and nutrition information of a restraunt and decide what I will have before even leaving the house. Sometimes the choice includes a plan to request a box when the meal is delivered and putting half of the entree in the box to enjoy the next day for lunch. ;D Report
definitely good to hear that some people are taking a step in the right direction. Report
Yay, Arnold! The reason Chile's and Applebee's get my business is because they post their nutritional info. Report
I don't think this will stop people and make them think. I know I go through Jack in the Box once a month, I know it will throw my day out the window. But that is why I only do it once a month. Report
At least most of your big restaurant chains do have their nutritionals on their websites - so at least you can familiarize yourself with what your possibilities are and plan ahead if you want to treat yourself.

I know some people think that it is the government's job to control what we do to ourselves by doing things like overtaxing or outlawing things that are bad for us, but it isn't. What the government can do however, is to force restaurants to do the same thing that packaged food manufacturers have done for decades now, and that is, reveal the content of the foods and the nutritionals so that we can make our own INFORMED decisions. Report
i think that it is a step in the right direction. although it will not likely change most people's eating habits it will atleast make them more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. i hope that with all the nutritional awareness will make it easier to eat healthy when out with family or friends whether it is satisfying a craving or eating on the go Report
As a Californian I'm STOKED. I was at Subway yesterday picking a sandwich based on calories and protein thinking, "Man my life would be easier if everywhere did this." And now they have to! Glad to see the Governator is doing some good. Suddenly electing a body-builder doesn't seem like such a bad idea, at least he'll watch out for my waistline. Report
yahoo! next up: RI! Report
Applepiedreams, I don't think the government is telling businesses how to operate as much as making them disclose information. They can still serve these outrageous portions and fat-filled foods, but by allowing their customers they might just get feedback that will allow them to cater to their customers' needs. The obesity rate in the U.S. warrants a change mandated by the government that empowers people to take charge of their own health. I am all for this bill. Report
I think knowing the nutritional content and posting it should be a requiment for all
eating establishments. I love Chinese and Japanese food but the lack of information on it makes it off limits. Report
I finally saw this in action last week when some coworkers and I went to lunch at Chevy's. Holy smokes, we were blown away by the calorie counts. Those salads weren't as healthy as they seemed... Some of the entrees had enough calories for 2 days worth of calories (2400!) Report
Wow, it's about time! In Canada all nutritional information has to be available, whether it's in McDonald's, at a sit-down restaurant or at the grocery store. It's the law and has been for a while now. I Report
Such a good idea, although I don't tend to eat out at chains anyway, or very rarely, so it wouldn't really affect me much! Report
I have been saying for years that I wish I could invent some sort of handheld scanner that analyzes any food on your plate to determine how many calories and fat grams are in it. That way, you always know what your individual portion has and can decide how much to eat. I would become so rich if it could be invented. This way - businesses can do what they want without government intervention,- and consumers know exactly what they are eating. Report
I agree with FitKelly2! Put nutrition info everywhere, and on everything! I'm 23 years old, and I've almost always eaten moderate portions - so why an I so FAT?! I rarely ever eat out any more, but sometimes it's unavoidable.
*Full Disclosure - I definitely need to exercise more! Report
i think it's fantastic, but i know i'm in for an awakening. Report
We've been living with this in NYC since the summer and after the initial shock, I think it's fantastic. That initial shock was REALLY shocking though. We would go out to eat at what, I thought, was a reasonably healthy restaurant and I wouldn't be able to find anything under 1,000 calories! And Starbucks? All the starbucks near me now carry lowfat pastries to help reduce the calories but it's still about 400 calories for anything in the case. My fuzzy (and low) caloric estimates were no match for the cold hard truth. :)

I love it and I miss it when I travel. It really helps me stick to my diet plan better and I'm excited it's being instituted elsewhere. Report
I think it's ridiculous that the government is telling private businesses how to operate. Report
That is awesome. I wish more places would post their calories! Report
Love it too bad it is not every where Report
My Hubby & I have been on this issue for over a yr. Everyone tells us "no way, you don't want to know" or "you can find it online"! I just want to say - well bring me your computer so I can decide what to order! We just quit eating out as much as we used to and now only eat where this info is readily shared. Otherwise, we choose to walk out & free their table up. Report
This needs to be a law in all of only makes sense. Why should labels not be on restaurant food if they're at the grocery store. This drives me nuts! Report
I would like to see this type of law passed in AZ!!! Report
It's about time! I've looked on-line prior to visiting and if I can't find the food breakdown it makes it even harder to decide if I really want to eat there. I just wish more places would offer a vegetable of the day instead of fries.
"Americans spend 47.9% of their food budget on restaurant food.
People who dine at fast-food restaurants eat there about twice a week."

WHAT!? Holy smokes! This does not represent me.

Good job, California. I look forward to my area following suit shortly. Report
I've been campaigning for this for years. Being actually confronted with the calorie count does make a difference in what I order. But knowing calorie counts have actually encouraged me to try foods I might not have otherwise. Report
at least you know the nutritional value of whatever you are putting into your mouth. Report
Fantastic idea! Kudos go out to the restaurants that decided to do this for the benefit of their customers not just because it is a law though! I frequent those establishments that tell me the nutritional information and stay clear of those that don't. If you want me to eat there, and you claim your food is healthy, show me the data! Report
I think it's a good idea. I will usually check the nutritional info online and I know what I'll order. If a craving hits I'll try to make room for it during that day. Report
I think that is a great idea. I especially like the idea of pamphlets that people can take with them. Those that don't care might pick up a pamphlet and look it over to see what they are eating and then of course if they don't know anything about calories might be curious to find out what they should be eating in a day and then be in for a big shock. Once you know something you can't unknow it.
In regular restaurants it would just be guestimates on calorie counts since each cook/chef does things a little differently but chains are all the same.
I would love to have the nutritional information readily available. Right now, I look up restaurants online and research what I can eat before we go. If I had the info available to me at the restaurant, it would certainly make going less stressful for me. Report
I pretty much only eat fast food when I am REALLY craving it. And then, I’m going to eat what I’m craving…If I want a McDonald’s cheeseburger, a grilled chicken sandwich is not going to cut it. If I want Burger King fries, a salad is not going to make me happy. I just keep it to a few rare occasions, and then just enjoy what I am eating. Knowing the calorie counts is what helps limit me to only once in while indulging. Report
Way to go-California! The rest of us have to follow suite! Report
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